The sweet melody came to a halt, pulling Evelyn and Everest apart. Evelyn lowered herself into a curtsey, with Everest bowing his head.
The thud of applause radiated, vibrating in the air. The crowd watched in admiration, as Everest leaned down to Evelyn’s ear and casually whispered, “We make quite a match, don’t you agree?” His smirk was all she saw from his towering form over her shoulder and before she could reply with an equally obnoxious response, an unfamiliar voice verbalised.
“Your Highness.” The man sounded rather disinterested, his voice coming out crusty. Nevertheless, Evelyn faced the individual.
“I would like to introduce my twin brother, Prince River.” Everest gestured his hand towards the man with similar features.
They matched in hair colour, jet black gleaming underneath the soft light. While Everest had icy blue eyes, River had a pair of stormy grey orbs. He stood at the same height as Everest, identical twins in everything but three aspects: eye colour, the way they carried themselves, and thirst for the crown. River had an obnoxious, self-centred aroma to him, completely opposite his twin.
Evelyn slightly bowed in respect, plastering on a smile. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you.” She extended her hand and River bent down to press a quick kiss.
Next, he gestured to the woman at his side. “This is Lady Clover, my date for tonight.” River smiled a tight-lipped smile, intertwining his arms with the woman.
“Your Highness.” Clover, a redhead with piercing black eyes, bowed her head, coming back up with a combination of a sneer and a smile on her pale, pearl skin.
Evelyn wondered if they were the ones to die. Would she mourn for them?
“They have come especially for the ball,” Everest spoke, sneaking a hand around her waist, sending tingles all over her skin. Evelyn smiled over the feelings, straightening her spine.
“Yes,” Evelyn uttered, “I heard. Thank you for accepting our invitation.”
Prince River nodded, dipping his head, “Of course, Everest seemed content with this kingdom, and truthfully, I had to see it for myself.”
“I hope you weren’t disappointed. Prince Everest is the first royal from the Orb to visit in decades, we ensured he’d be glad he came.” She spoke fiercely but gently.
“And to that, we must share a toast-” he snapped his fingers, and a waiter appeared next to Clover, “-for more visits to Adaline from the Orb.” Clover handed Evelyn the cup, and the four tipped the champagne glass backwards, sipping. The drink immediately took effect, loosening her tense shoulders.
River turned to Clover, and the two departed for a dance. Then, Anton approached.
A sullen grin crossed Evelyn’s face at the sight of her godfather. She slipped out of Everest’s grip, his hand dropping from around her waist.
“Good evening, Lord Anton,” She greeted, giving him a curt nod.
The wrinkled man nodded and resurfaced with a beam of his own. “Evening. Such formalities need be disposed of around your godfather, eh?”
At his comment, Evelyn almost forgot the situation at hand.
“Now, Father would be rather disappointed I do not respect my elders appropriately, don’t you think?”
Anton simply gleamed. “How are you?”
Evelyn wanted to tell him about all that happened since she last saw him. She wanted to tell him about being seen with Everest by Abdon, and Ivory remaining unaccepting and unsupportive. It itched at her throat, along with the simple grim truth that someone will die, and she sure hoped it isn’t anyone she loves.
Instead, she said, “I am good, and you?”
“Better, now that I am here,” He continued, “I’ll go speak to your father.” He cupped her cheek in support, before walking away to Eleazar on his throne.
Now that she was alone, she acknowledged the severe ache in her stomach. An ache that grew stronger with each passing nanosecond, until it felt similar to explosions going off in her stomach. The pain was sharp, cutting and butchering until she was forced to lean on something close.
The object was Braxton, as he approached her to converse. He held her shoulders as she leaned over, a hand laid on her stomach and the other squeezing his arm. He spoke words but she frankly couldn’t hear him.
She attempted at inhaling some air to subdue the pain, but the agony inevitably overpowered and soon, she was gasping for air. She squeezed his arm, earning a hiss from Braxton. He backed away slightly, confused as he watched her wheeze for air.
The torment sent her over, burning her insides as her mouth darted open. It shot up like fire, from her stomach up to her ribs and lungs and inevitably her heart. It obliterated her senses, all but two, the ability to feel and see.
The attention of the room was on her, and she could hear small portions of the havoc raging around her. She looked up and saw Braxton with his eyes all over the room, mouth agape as he shouted and yelled. Suddenly, Evelyn was swayed as Braxton was forced away. A new face appeared in front of her, as the two stood on the knees.
The face had glacier eyes and black hair, and it repeated her name. With one last penetrating explosion, her eyes rolled back into her skull.
“What do we tell her when she wakes up?”
“Don’t be foolish, child. We won’t tell her anything.”
“What? She needs to know!”
“No, she does not, and you won’t tell her. She fainted out of fatigue and that is all that happened.”
“She fainted and woke up a week later?”
“Don’t sass me, Ivory. I am her mother, I know what is best.”
“Mother?” Evelyn’s voice came out raspy, strained from disuse. Her eyes recognised her bed and she slowly attempted at sitting up, only to fall back down. The pain, despite being reduced to an ache, was still present and sharp. “What happened?”
Her abdomen felt sore, and so she slowly lifted the duvet off her body, only to spot a pool of crimson on the white sheets and her pearl dress. She gasped aloud and turned to face her Mother’s and Ivory’s frozen state by the balcony. They seemed shocked by her awoken presence, gapes etched onto their faces.
Evelyn repeated herself, memories slowly returning, The riddle, the pain, she recalled everything. “What happened?” This time, her voice held anger as well.
Queen Erika collected herself first, shaking her head and printing a smile across her face, “Nothing, Evalina. You fainted at the ball because of fatigue.” Erika approached her daughter, and gently pulled the duvet back into its original spot. “You need only rest and regain your strength.”
Evelyn parted her lips to retaliate, but her mother quickly shushed her. “Rest, Evalina.” She leaned down, pecked her daughter on the forehead and turned. “Ivory, please ensure she rests.” Then, she left.
At her exit, Evelyn turned to Ivory. She had her arms crossed, almost hugging herself as she kept her eyes away from Evelyn. Evelyn wanted answers, now more than ever. She heard what they were saying.
“Ivory,” Evelyn threatened her for her silence. “What happened? I will not repeat myself. I am your princess, and you will tell me. Now.”
At her words, Ivory sighed aloud, plopped down on the couch and said, “It’s bad, Evelyn.” She held her face in her hands.
Evelyn, despite desperately needing explanations, remained patient. It seemed a lot was needed to be explained, so Evelyn simplified it for Ivory. “Has it been a week since the ball?”
Ivory, still in her position, nodded.
Evelyn inhaled the cold air but continued, “And what about the blood?”
Ivory jumped off her seat as if it were poisoned. she ran a hand through her hair but remained silent.
“Ivory!” Evelyn yelled, clenching fists and jaw in vexation.
“I’m sorry,” Ivory spoke, lowering herself across Evelyn on the bed. She licked her lips nervously but nevertheless, murmured, “You miscarried.”
Evelyn first felt confused, not understanding how it all occurred. Then, she felt disbelief. Her eyes looked up at Ivory, searching for a sign of a lie or even a sickening joke. Then it was unbelief, there was no possible way it could be true, but the evidence was right there.
“What?” Evelyn whispered, her voice hushed.
“You had a miscarriage, Evelyn. You were poisoned at the ball.” Ivory faced Evelyn now, carefully calculating her words, “It, the position, was strong enough to kill it, but not you. Ever-the person who did it was not precise. The drink was not concentrated with the right amount to kill you.”
Evelyn’s eyes trailed down to her locked hands, hands that were slowly turning white from the hard squeeze. The more she thought about it, the more she understood. The vomiting she pushed aside as ordinary sickness, but the riddle stood out the most in her mind. Someone did die. Someone who did not have a chance to live, to breathe fresh air, to carry out ordinary daily exercises, to love. Someone she never got to meet, yet she loved the most. Was it a girl? Was it a boy? At that infinite moment, she wished someone else died, because no one was as important as her unborn child.
Her heart began disposing of its job, skipping beats religiously. Thorns prickled her vision and she slowly looked up. She felt saddened, she felt pulverised, she felt the grievous loss but most of all, she felt hot, burning rage.
“Who did it?” The words sneered out quivered her lips, and her hands unlocked and reached for her stomach, the object that once held her whole world and she did not even know it.
Ivory knew what she meant, “Everest was arrested a day after the ball.”
Evelyn released the breath she was not aware she held and squeezed her eyes shut. The butt of her hands adding more pressure as she sought to suppress all the tears. She sobbed aloud, her heart falling down an infinite cliff. The tears flowed out like a river, the current harsh and strong, breaking her bones.
Everything was falling apart.